After visiting my friends in Dublin and heading over to the beautiful west coast of Ireland, I took a train to Belfast as a sort of home base for going to see the Giant’s Causeway. It was a lovely surprise to find that Belfast itself is quite a nice city, as cities go. I heard the Ulster Museum was a good place to start so that’s where I headed.
From the museum’s display: “These curved bands of quartzite were originally deposited about 600 million years ago as horizontal layers of sand but were later metamorphosed to quartzite. Even a rock as tough as this can be deformed by the immense forces generated when continents collide.” ‘When Continents Collide‘ – the name of my new movie. I lurv geology.
These are fossil remains of crinoids. They are stalked relatives of starfish and were once abundant on the ocean floor. Beautiful, aren’t they?
Speaking of fossils….
…..I saw Dippy! Well, Dippy isn’t an actual fossil, but a plaster cast of a Diplodocus discovered in Wyoming in 1898. He’s much beloved in England where he’s been displayed in London since around 1905. He’s now ‘on tour’ and from what I’ve heard, the folk of London are none too happy about it. I can sort of understand that. In my original hometown of Riverside, California, there was a Saber Toothed Cat fossil skeleton on display for as long as I can remember. However, last time I was in Riverside and visited the museum, it was gone. I asked about it and was told that we’d only had it on loan and it went back to its original ‘home’ (I’ve forgotten where that is now). I thought, “Loan? What, we had a 40 year loan?” Anyway, the museum isn’t quite the same to me without the Saber Toothed Cat!
Dippy shares the space with another fossil cast from a Tyrannosaurus Rex skull. The original skeleton, which came from 70 million year old Upper Cretaceous rock in Montana is in the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
The museum had quite a mix. From ancient Chinese bells with the random whale skeleton hanging around in the background…..
…..to this insanely dangerous ‘child’s toy’ from 1951…..
…..that originally contained uranium ore samples and radioactive isotopes of lead, zinc, ruthenium and polonium. Have fun, kids! It also contained a government manual to help you find your own uranium deposits! From the museum’s display: “The set also included a Geiger counter, perhaps to reveal how contaminated you had become.”
This is an early power loom. By 1873, Belfast was the largest producer of linen product in the world.
This broach is from the Ardagh Hoard of metalwork from the 8th and 9th centuries. I’ll take three, please.
I didn’t take any pictures outside the museum because it was being refurbished and had a tarpaulin covering a good portion of it. Below are a few photos of Queen’s University around the corner from the Ulster Museum.
And a few other beautiful structures I saw around town (but can’t name).
You’ll see raindrops on some of the photos because they were taken from a bus. I was on the way to my longed-for destination.
As beautiful as this is, it’s not that destination! But, I’m so happy we stopped here. It is in County Antrim, Northern Ireland and a beautiful sight to see. We stopped here to witness this beauty but also, for those who dared, to cross the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. I happened to be one of those who dared.
I wanted to take a pic of the bridge before getting on it – this guy took selfies all the way across! But, this is the best shot I have of the bridge from the mainland side. We were told beforehand it’s a very sturdy bridge – that it doesn’t sway. Well, it’s sturdy, but it does sway. It turned out to be a little scarier than I was prepared for, but I walked across.
Here are a few photos I took without looking through the viewfinder. I just aimed down! No way was I going to take my eyes off the footbridge!
Here is a shot of the bridge from the island (which is actually a volcanic neck).
Following are some photos of the jaw-dropping, heart-wrenching beauty in the area.
As much as I would love to have stayed here forever, I was excited to continue on to the the Giant’s Causeway.
From the bus stop to which, one walks down a long trail to the shore. By the time I reached sea level, I thought I’d begin to see what I’d come for…..
….and this was not quite it. As pretty as this is, it’s just not ‘it.’
Hhhmmm, this is getting closer. I was starting to see hints of it….
Ah! Here we are!
This is what I was looking for!
This columnar rock is formed as basalt from a volcanic flow cools at a fairly even rate. As it cools, it begins to crack at 90° angles. As cooling continues, the cracks shift to 120° thereby maximizing the energy released at each crack face and forming these mostly hexagonal columns.
There’s a sort of domino effect as the lava cools – once one crystal forms, it sort of influences the next and the next. These are basically gargantuan crystals.
And for you Led Zeppelin fans out there – yes, this is where the Houses of the Holy album cover was shot! That photo was a composite, however. There’s no one scene that looks exactly like the cover.
The tallest of the columns are 12 m / 39 ft high.
I could’ve stayed for hours photographing this place and just staring at the sea crashing against the rocks.
It’s incredibly hypnotic…..
…..in a dark sort of way.
Alas, it was time to go all too soon.
But, I’m so happy I made it here. I’ve wanted to see the Giant’s Causeway for so long. My dream is to some day rent a camper van and travel all along the coast of Ireland. It’s just positively breathtaking.
My travels for now are coming to a close, sadly. In some ways, it’s good. Being on the road for as long as I’ve been (over a year now), I’m ready to stay put for a while. To have that little corner where I can curl up and pick up my knitting, you know? But, I’m so grateful I’ve done what I’ve done and seen what I’ve seen.
Since I was here at Giant’s Causeway, I’ve gone on to England, Belgium, Germany, Morocco and I’m now in Spain. Hopefully, I’ll be able to catch you up on all those locations before too long.
I’m in Madrid at my hostel now. I’ll be leaving this evening and flying out to New York, then Portland, Oregon. Hoo boy – long flights ahead!